Sushila Nayar met Gandhi as a child and began working with him as his personal physician as well as an active member of the freedom struggle from 1939 till Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. This was during some of the most tense and turbulent years of the struggle. Her brother, Pyarelal was one of Gandhi’s close associates and biographers. In an interview with researcher Fred J. Blum, Nayar tells an amazing story that highlights Gandhi’s humanity and fearlessness in the face of potential violence. While the story is simple, I will spread it out over the next three posts in order to bring out three important features of Gandhi as a person and his influence on those around him.
It was in Delhi, just before Gandhi’s “epic fast,” in other words when post-partition violence had escalated between Muslims and Hindus. He was invited to an area where Muslim refugees were living, and when he arrived, the car was surrounded by angry people who began banging on the windows. The driver was afraid, and decided not to stop, but Gandhi insisted, “Stop.” The driver didn’t listen to his first request, and so Gandhi tapped strongly on the seat and told him to stop the car. When the car stopped, he stepped out. Nayar said you could see and feel their anger–it was palpable. But instead of asking for his companions to get out with him for their support, Gandhi, in a gesture that came naturally to him, took the shoulders of two men in the group. He asked them to sit down and he began talking with them, from his heart. Nayar recounts:
“When he spoke they could feel the sincerity, the love, the honesty that the man really felt for them. It was true, he put on no show. And I tell you, it was something tremendous. Where there was anger and hatred, tears started coming right from those very eyes.”
Reflect on some of the lessons we could learn from Gandhi in the above situation.
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